In basketball there’s a very delicate balance between depth and offensive efficiency.
The biggest challenge lately for BYU coach Mark Pope is figuring out that balance.
On one hand, Pope is utilizing ten players in his regular rotation. All ten are averaging at least 10 minutes of playing time a game. He’s able to rest his three seniors – Alex Barcello, Brandon Averette and Matt Haarms – enough to keep them fresh for crunch time.
On the other hand, moving ten players through a rotation has resulted in some inefficient offensive numbers and fluctuating playing time.
According to CougarStats, BYU has scored ten points or fewer in a ten-minute stretch in five of its seven West Coast Conference games. Lengthy scoring droughts, especially in the back-to-back games against Pepperdine and Saturday’s win against Pacific, are areas of concern.
Pope starts junior Colby Lee and sophomore Trevin Knell. Against the Tigers, those two players finished with only eight and nine minutes of playing time, respectively, in a double overtime contest.
After the win against Pacific, Pope said: “We went through our whole lineup and everybody found a way to contribute in different ways. On not our best night the guys kind of gutted it out and that’s the real identity of this team. It’s kind of who they are. We might not know a lot of other stuff about ourselves, but we know that we’ll stay in there and fight and endure frustration.”
Pope said he knows he can count on Barcello, Averette and Haarms.
“Usually, if your team and your program is functioning well, then really the seniors DNA is imprinted on the team,” he said. “It just happens to be a particular skill and talent that those three guys have to make a huge difference in winning. AB (Barcello) is as tough as nails. BA (Averette) has a chip on his shoulder and he’s a tough guy. Matt Haarms is tough in the sense that he never allows himself to get too distracted. The team is following their lead and they’ve done a terrific job so far.”
Other players are in the process of earning Pope’s trust.
“It’s interesting how these lineups are working for me,” Pope said. “Sometimes I feel like I can have a guy or two on the floor that has an upside but they make me nervous. A lot of times I need to balance it out with someone who I know that this dude is going to steady the ship in terms of experience, in terms of confidence and in terms of understanding me.”
Scouting ReportBYU and San Diego were scheduled to play on Jan. 2 but the Toreros had to pause activities due to COVID-19 protocols. In fact, San Diego has had to pause several times this season for that reason. The Toreros, which finished 9-23 overall last year and 2-14 in WCC play, have a busy week with three games scheduled in five days.
“We will recover and do our post day off then all the game prep and travel on Monday to play a San Diego team that’s just been super hard for us on the road,” Pope said. “We barely escaped with our life last year. They’re a really tough opponent for us. It’s what we get to do. We’re so grateful for every chance to play.”
BYU routed the Toreros in Provo last year (93-70) but nearly lost at Jenny Craig Pavilion a few weeks later. A lob from T.J. Haws to Yoeli Childs for a dunk with 11 seconds left and a defensive stop finally preserved a 72-71 win.
San Diego’s personnel has changed quite a bit since last season. Transfers Ben Pyle (Western Illinois), Josh Parrish (Rice), Frankie Hughes (Duquesne) and Yavuz Gultekin (Texas A&M) are significant contributors. Leading scorer Joey Calcaterra (12.9 points per game) was with the team last year but has come off the bench the past two games. Big man Yauhen Massalski has been dealing with an injury and hasn’t played in a month.
The Toreros are ninth in the WCC in scoring defense (75.4) and last in scoring offense (65.0) and field goal percentage defense (.406).
It’s a quick turnaround for BYU from Saturday’s double overtime game since the Cougars don’t practice on Sunday.
“After tonight, I’m pretty exhausted,” Barcello said on Saturday. “I’ll probably sleep in then jump in an ice bath and the hot tub. Coach Schork (the strength and conditioning coach) and Rob Ramos (the team trainer) do a great job of keeping my body right. They know what I need to do as the week progresses.”
Barcello, who had to have his front tooth repaired after an elbow in the Pepperdine game, added, “I can’t help but smile. I’m so glad Dr. Morgan fixed my tooth.”